Cornucopia was so successful in 2012 that event organizers were able to return the $30,000 in Festivals Events & Animation funding it received, only to see those funds returned in 2013.
Sue Eckersley, president of the event production company Watermark that organizes the event, said the 2012 augmentation money went towards expanding the programming of the annual culinary festival and allowed the event to make a profit.
“The money that they invested last year gave us the confidence to go out and try a program that we thought would be successful,” she said. “What is really important about it is if we hadn’t received that money we wouldn’t have taken the risk.
“I think that is the perfect picture of how FE&A money can be used in a successful manner.”
The event used the FE&A funds as originally proposed and exceeded expectations, but as a non-profit event owned by Tourism Whistler, Eckersley said it didn’t seem right to keep the money.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the FE&A oversight committee felt those funds could be rolled over into 2013 with an additional $45,000 to support Cornucopia’s efforts to expand into an 11 day food and wine festival.
“It was rolled over from 2012 into 2013 and … my understanding is that Cornucopia for 2013 will have its activities expanded and they are able to do that partly because of the additional funding that they are to receive,” she said.
Eckersley is also the event organizer for the upcoming World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF), which received FE&A funding for the first time this year.
She said the $135,000 that WSSF was provided will go towards music for the 10-day event, which makes it the largest free outdoor concert series in Canada.
Specifically, she said WSSF will be able to attract bigger acts to the stage than it has before.
“It is such a great marriage of FE&A and the World Ski and Snowboard Festival because the reality is our job is to be driving traffic to Whistler in what traditionally was a slow time,” she said. “I think it will have a significant impact and it is certainly timely this year for us, being that we have lost Telus as a title sponsor.”
A few other event producers have been critical of the process for distributing the augmentation funds, however Eckersley disagreed with the criticisms, noting that there will always be events deserving of funds and a limited pool from which to distribute.
“I know there are a lot of criticisms out there, but as somebody who has been in event world for 13 years in Whistler — and produces two major events — I really believe the RMOW and the committee that put this together did a really good job,” she said. “I would have loved to see everybody get money … but there is a limited pool of funds available and they are doing their best in distributing it in a fair way.”
Wilhem-Morden said the FE&A program is only in its third year and is constantly evolving. It was only last year that a policy framework was established for distributing the funds and an oversight committee established.
“I think there is always room for improvement in a program, there is no doubt about that, but I think we are really moving into a situation where we are making good decisions earlier and I think the program for 2013 looks pretty exciting,” she said.
The concern expressed recently centred around the funding of Ironman and Tough Mudder events with augmentation funds, when those events did not have to meet the same requirements for funding as other event organizers.
The mayor said the municipality is cogniscent of the nature of the concerns and may adjust the program’s use of language for next year to better reflect what it is the funds are being used for.
“But at the end of the day we want to use these funds for the purpose for which we receive them from the province and we want to be accountable and we want to be as transparent as we can.”